While the majority of Long Islanders probably chose to spend the coldest day of the season so far indoors, a dedicated handful of birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts braved the cold to explore the Shinnecock Inlet on Sunday.
About 10 people joined Steve Biasetti, director of environmental education for the Group for the East End, on Dune Road in Hampton Bays as he led a wildlife search, which he does four times a year, he said.
“I think people like to get outdoors,” he said. “And they are interested to know that there is actually quite diverse wildlife population on the East End.”
On Sunday, Biasetti and his group saw mostly birds - as it’s migratory season, he said - and also about 30 harbor seals on a sandbar in the distance.
Participants, clad in heavy winter parkas, fur caps, and even some ski suits, followed Biasetti as he pointed out different species of birds and set up his spotting scope for them to take a closer look. Biasetti said that throughout his wildlife searches, he has come across more than 150 different species, including a bald eagle that once soared over the heads of his group during one outing.
The group found and discussed different types of sea gulls, black ducks, Common Eiders, Gannets and one Merlin falcon.
Kathleen Heenan, of Remsenberg, a bird watcher who teaches birding in New York City, goes on multiple explorations with the Group for the East End each year. She said she enjoyed seeing a species of bird called the Gannet, because of their distinct black and white feathers and blue-gray beaks. On her last trip, she said, she saw a snowy owl.
But Heenan said she really attends the wildlife searches for the opportunity to be outdoors, to get to know the environment she lives in, and the camaraderie.
“It just teaches you how to enjoy the outdoors and to really know it,” she said.
The Group for the East End offers a number of free explorations throughout the year. For more information, visit www.eastendenvironment.org.
Here's Erin at the scene.